Software Development
Coding / Web development

Why this DC native ditched Silicon Valley to teach the next generation of local coders

The D.C. campus of the Flatiron School just graduated its first class a couple weeks ago. Instructor Robert Cobb was a big part of that.

Robert Cobb, team player. (Courtesy photo)

The DMV nabbed the No. 3 spot last year in an index published by Cushman & Wakefield highlighting the 25 most tech-savvy cities.

As the D.C. tech world continues to develop, Robert Cobb felt drawn back home. The D.C. native returned after working for a few years in Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world.

“D.C. is very up and coming, where in San Francisco the tech [world] has been around for a lot longer,” Cobb said. “It’s been relatively small and a relatively close-knit community. It’s growing. There’s a lot of opportunities for beginners.”

Cobb started his coding career eight years ago while studying computer engineering at the University of Maryland. During this time, Cobb taught coding classes at a summer camp.

“I realized through teaching at this summer camp that what I really wanted to do was not just be a computer engineer, but to teach computer science,” Cobb said.

His teaching career exceeds his coding expertise, so he took business and education courses as an undergrad. Since his coursework at UMD was unique, he was able to create his major through the individual studies program and graduated in December 2014 with a B.S. in entrepreneurship and innovation in STEM education.

The tech scene needs to be accessible. You need to be able to break into it.

After college, Cobb moved to Seattle to teach high-schoolers coding through a partnership with the Flatiron School and Google’s computer science summer institute. The program was only three months long, so Cobb decided to switch gears after that.

“I decided I didn’t have quite enough experience to feel like I could really teach to the best of my abilities, and so I went and got a job as a software engineer at a startup,” Cobb said.

Cobb worked at Fin in San Francisco for two and a half years where he gained experience programming and building products. He took a hiatus from teaching during this time until he decided to move back to the East Coast.

“I got a call from Flatiron,” Cobb said. “The opportunity came up to get back to my roots of teaching and to come back home to D.C., and I jumped on it.”

The Flatiron School is a coding school for adults that equips its students with the skills to become software developers and data scientists upon completion. The school launched in 2012 with a campus in New York City and has expanded across the U.S. since. It was acquired by WeWork late last year. Cobb returned to Flatiron in March as a web development lead instructor when the company launched its D.C. campus.

Cobb teaches the web development immersive, an intense 15-week course focused on teaching students to code using various applications and programming languages.

The D.C. Flatiron campus just graduated its first class a couple of weeks ago, and Cobb says the students are getting their early job offers now. Cobb wants Flatiron to become the D.C. hub for technological needs as the community advances.

“I think in order to have a thriving tech scene you need to have programmers — you need to have programmers that are new, that are learning,” he said. “The tech scene needs to be accessible. You need to be able to break into it.”

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